Representatives of 14 Arab states held a three-day conference at the Meridian Hotel in Damascus last week aimed at reinvigorating the decades-old economic and trade boycott of Israel.
The annual event, which concluded on Thursday, brought together regional Arab League boycott liaison officers from participating Arab countries, including Libya, Syria and Kuwait, as well as representatives of the Palestinians and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Although the Arab League has its headquarters in Cairo, the organization's Office for the Boycott of Israel has been based in the Syrian capital since its establishment in 1951.
In recent years, enforcement has waxed and waned. Some Arab League members, such as Egypt and Jordan, ceased applying it after signing peace treaties with Israel, while others, such as Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia do not enforce it. Other Arab states, such as Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, continue to bar entry to goods made in Israel or those containing Israeli-made components.
A recent report issued by the US Congressional Research Service found that, "Overall enforcement of the boycott by member countries appears sporadic. Some Arab League members have limited trading relations with Israel... However, adherence to the boycott is an individual matter for each Arab League member and enforcement varies by state."
Various speakers at the Damascus conference underlined the importance of the embargo on Israel as a means of pressuring the Jewish state and called on the Arab League's members to intensify its enforcement .
In the keynote address to the gathering, Muhammad al-Tayyeb Busala'a, who serves as commissioner general of the Arab League's Central Bureau for the Boycott of Israel, said the trade embargo against the Jewish state aims "to challenge the legitimacy of Israel's existence."
Busala'a went on to describe the boycott as being of "a tolerant nature" because it "targets persons who support the Jewish entity in any way, regardless of their nationalities or religions."
He added that calls to end the boycott are "illogical" so long as "Israel is pursuing its aggressive policies and committing atrocities."
His remarks were echoed by General Ghiath Badr Abbas, director of the Syrian Bureau for Boycotting Israel, who affirmed the importance of refraining from any type of economic relations with the Jewish state.
Soha al-Sorani, director of the Arab League's Israeli Affairs Department, underlined the role of the boycott in confronting what she termed "the racist Israeli practices."
"The Arab League's secretariat," she added, "attributes great importance to the ongoing conference of the Bureau for Boycotting Israel."